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Full text of "The Loom Of Language"

i yo                The Loom of Language

boundary line a, thus allowing words and roots to laove irctJy OVLI inc
whole lietd oi Language In anolync languages, like Chinese and bngUsh,
this ubiquitous nature of roots is most conspicuous, but it CvUi be found
even in very primitive languages          Ihe migration oi roots into im-

piopcr places has given to the imaginary reality of hypostati/ed meaning
a special solidity of its own For, since eatly experience warrants the
substantival existence of anything found withm the category oi Crude
Substance, and subsequent linguistic shifts introduce there such loots as
goings rctf> motion) etc > the obvious inference is that such abstract entities
or ideas live in a real world oi their own Such harmless adjectives as
good or bad, expiessing the savage's half-ammal satisfaction or dissatis-
faction in a situation ;> subsequently intrude into the enclosuie reserved
for the clumsy > iough-hcwn blocks of piiirutive substance, are sublimated
into Goodne^ and Badncw, and create whole theological worlds, and
systems of Thought and Religion "*

What Mahnowski calls "shifting of roots and meanings from one
grammatical category to another" has multiplied words appropriate to
situations which have nothing in common and is responsible for ninety
per cent of the difticulues of learning a language. One illustration of
this is the multiplicity of word forms connected with the subject-object
distinction The lamp illuminates (shines on) the table m the same
sense as the lamp illuminates (or shines on) me If w* I see the lamp
We do not say ilvu the table s>ccs the lamp, and there is a good enough
reason for this distinction The lamp does not stimulate the table
as it stimulates my retina ^ but tins <Mie* ence does not justify the use of
two pronouns /and me. In both statements the pronoun is the goal, and
the lamp 1$ the agent as J is the agent in / moved the lamp Possibly
there was once a real distinction of this kmd5 if what we should now
call verbs were only words for action To-day it signifies nothing
apart from the context. To know which is the agent and which is the
goal of action we need to know the meaning of the verb. If the verb is
hear the subject is the goal of the process and the object is what initiates
it If the verb is stnkc, the leverse is true The grammatical object is
not necessarily the logical or biological object It may be the actor or
the victim of a performance, tJhe stimulus or a result of a process.

The positive rulcb of syntax which remain when we have cleared
away the cobwebs of classical grammar are concerned with the most
explicit use of particles, with the rejection of unnecessarily idiomatic
* Appendix to Tht Mcamtig of Meaning by C K, Ogdcn and L A» Richards,